ELMONT, N.Y. – Alex G. Campbell’s Mean Mary dominated the field to win the 2020 Grade 2, $750,000 New York by 5 1/4 lengths. In this year’s edition, the Scat Daddy mare didn’t provide the same margin, but the result was the same, going gate-to-wire and staving off Thunder Nights’ hard-charging late rally by a nose to repeat in the prestigious contest for older fillies and mares going 1 1/4 miles on Friday over Belmont Park’s inner turf course.
The 78th running of the New York was one of five stakes on the second day of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. The crowd on hand saw history, with Mean Mary becoming the first repeat winner of the race that was first contested in 1940.
The now 5-year-old Mean Mary defended her New York title with a strong break under Luis Saez, moving out front of the nine-horse field in setting fractions of 25.09 seconds for the opening quarter-mile with the half in 50.31 on a yielding course that was deluged by earlier rain.
Mean Mary, who won last year’s edition over firm going, wasn’t deterred by the softer ground, maintaining the advantage with three-quarters clocked in 1:15.83. Kept near the rail out of the far turn, Mean Mary pressed on, but Thundering Nights showed the group stakes-winning form she displayed in Europe, putting a charge in the contest in her North American debut by exploding in the stretch under Hall of Famer John Velazquez from the outside, finishing on the short end of a head bob with Mean Mary completing the course in 2:04.68.
Trainer Graham Motion saddled Mean Mary to a 2-for-2 start to the campaign, building on a half-length score in the Grade 3 Gallorette going 1 1/16 miles last month at Pimlico Race Course off a six-month freshening.
In her 4-year-old campaign, Mean Mary compiled three graded stakes wins, adding the New York to victories in the Grade 3 La Prevoyante and the Grade 3 Orchid at Gulfstream Park before running second by a neck to Rushing Fall in the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga Race Course. With her victory Friday, Mean Mary improved to 7-2-0 in 11 career starts.
“I was really anxious when I saw [Thundering Nights] closing so fast, but I had felt pretty confident to that point,” Motion said. “She was really running. She came out of the gate like a rabbit. I’d never seen her break like that. She really does love it. She’s such a cool filly.”
Off as the 5-2 favorite, Mean Mary returned $7.40 on a $2 win wager. She earned millionaire status with the win, improving her career bankroll to $1,006,160. She could next target a return engagement in the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana on July 17 at the Spa or the Grade 1, $400,000 Beverly D. on August 14 at Arlington Park.
“I may go to the Beverly D. The Diana has not been kind to me, but we’ll see,” Motion said.
Saez, aboard for all of her stakes wins, said Mean Mary handled the course with aplomb.
“She just broke well and she loves to run free,” Saez said. “I was just so glad to be on her. She got a great trip, broke out of there so well. She always breaks pretty well, but today was better than ever. She controlled the pace. The track was a little soft, but she handled it. She tried pretty hard the whole time.
“Johnny [Velazquez] came flying there, but she gave me that last kick,” Saez added. “She’s a hard fighter.”
Thundering Nights, who won the Group 3 Snow Fairy last August at the Curragh in Ireland, finished two lengths clear of My Sister Nat for runner-up honors in her first start in the United States.
“I got the position I wanted on the backstretch,” said Velazquez about the Joseph O’Brien-trained Thundering Nights. “I was in a comfortable position, but it took a lot longer for her to get going down the stretch.
“I was stuck behind the two horses in front of me and it took me a long time to get her going,” Velazquez added. “Once she got loose, she came running but it was too late.”
Added O’Brien: “I’m really proud of her effort. She ran a huge race and it was a great run from her. She really hit the wire strong and lost a little bit of ground on the first turn, which maybe cost us the race.”
Virginia Joy, Harvey’s Lil Goil, Mutamakina, Magic Attitude, Civil Union and Traipsing completed the order of finish. Always Shopping, Antoinette and Micheline scratched.
New York Stakes replay
The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival continues Saturday and is headlined by the 153rd running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets. Belmont Stakes Day will feature nine graded stakes, including eight Grade 1s, capped by the “Test of the Champion” for 3-year-olds in the 1 1/2-mile final leg of the Triple Crown. First post on Saturday is 11:35 a.m. Eastern.
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Belmont Park Press Release by Brian Bohl
Photo: Mean Mary in a close finish with Thundering Nights after she made a bullet start. (NYRA/Susie Raisher)